Friday, January 9, 2015

Firearms Friday: The “Right” Firearm?

Over the last couple of months I have had numerous conversations with people who are either looking to purchase their first firearm or they are looking to get a new one. The questions are almost always centered on handguns so that is what I will focus on in this post. They always ask me either what my favorite is or which one would I buy but the fact of the matter is that it is not that simple. There are a variety of factors that come into play that determine what firearms should even be considered. And while the list below applies primarily to new shooters, the same can be applied to those looking for something a little different. So, here are the primary considerations that I go over with anyone who asks for my opinion:

  • Purpose: How is this firearm going to be used? Range? Competition? Carry? Do you have a carry permit? All of these questions help to narrow down the selection process. Size really doesn’t matter for someone that is simply looking for a range gun but is hugely important when considering a carry option. Even then, their size and the means by which they want to carry narrow the field down even further.
  • Caliber: .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP? Those are the calibers that I am most commonly asked about and while there is a long list of pros and cons to each of them it really boils down to two factors… what can you shoot well and which one do you prefer? While I personally prefer 9mm and .45 ACP, that doesn’t mean that they are the right choice for everyone. That is what I prefer, shoot well, it’s readily available, and what I can find the best prices for range ammunition. Which leads me to the next thing that people should consider…
  • Cost: It is not just the cost of the firearm that needs to be considered at time of selection/purchase. Ammunition costs need to be factored in as well. These two primary considerations are in addition to range time, training, holster(s), a means to secure the firearm (i.e. safe), cleaning accessories, and, when applicable, the cost of a carry permit. There are a variety of factors that play into the price and there are a few ways that you can curb costs. Range memberships get you to the range more often and reduce the overall costs per visit. Reloading can reduce ammunition costs and, when done right, increase range performance. And, most importantly, there is nothing wrong with buying a used firearm. With the exception of some insane sales I have seen at Tanner’s, it is the best way to get the most for your money. Take a look at the total cost of ownership before selecting the firearm that is right for you.
  • Size: This was covered in purpose but it is worth having this as a separate section. Size not only impacts the purpose but it is also a significant consideration when seeing what fits the shooter. Size and weight also influence how much one feels the recoil of the calibers mentioned above. Overall, when it comes to comfort, size is one of the biggest if not the biggest factor in selecting a firearm (especially for first time shooters).
  • Action: For new shooters this can sometimes be the most time consuming point to review. Beyond the whole semi auto vs. revolver debate there are also plenty of options beyond that. Single action, double/single action, and striker fired are ones that I frequently review. Much of this whole category comes down to what you shoot best. Some people are great with revolvers while others, including myself, are absolutely no good with revolvers but are pretty accurate with just about any semi auto. And if the person shoots equally well with different actions, then it all comes down to preference and the other, aforementioned, factors.
With all of that said, in the end, the most powerful part of the process is the preference of the individual. The perfect firearm could be a small, single stack, striker fired, 9mm pocket pistol like a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield but that doesn’t mean they are going to buy that firearm. If they have their heart set on a FN Five Seven or a Nighthawk Custom 1911, there is little that you are going to be able to say to sway them. Preference, especially for a particular model or manufacturer is a powerful persuader. However, there are a few that go through the process and take the time to figure out what makes sense for them and that is why I will continue taking people through this process and doing my best to help them find the firearm that is right for them.